Who's In It: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill
The Basics: Ben Stiller, former security guard of the Natural History Museum where everything would come alive at night, has to return to help his not-living, inanimate statue friends because they're being shipped off to live in the Smithsonian's archives. Why are they being uprooted? Because it's hard times for the Natural History Museum. And why is it hard times for the Natural History Museum? Because Ben abandoned them, sold out his natural history-centric, pro-talking statue values and left his minimum wage job as a security guard to go live his dream and run his own multimillion dollar company. What a jerk.
What's The Deal: Setting aside the fact that this movie has no good reason to exist outside of sweet box-office projections, tie-in merchandise and licensing deals (because honestly I have no problem with that stuff), wouldn't it be awesome if the talented comedic cast assembled had been given something to do besides run around yelling? Or if the script written by Reno 911! funny men Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant made any sense? Or if the direction by the guy who made--and here's where it'll all start coming clear--The Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen were more competent than the average episode of Rock of Love? The only winners in this battle are the people who got paid crazy money to make it. Everyone else can brace themselves for some post-traumatic stress.
Casting Trickery: Gervais is barely in it. If it's him you're looking for then don't bother. Same with Jonah Hill and his two minutes of screen time (two of the only funny minutes, by the way). Everyone else gets less to do than Stiller and he's not funny once.
Here's The Other Funny Scene: And yes, this counts as a spoiler. But it involves Steve Coogan as a tiny diorama figure who comes to life and then has to run through some grass like it's an overgrown rainforest. It's a perspective gag. It's funny. But then you kind of wish it wasn't because all it does is remind you of all the not-laughing you're doing before and after that moment.
One Possible Positive Outcome: If you're a conscientious parent and your kid demands to see this then you might be able to take the museum references outside the theater and bolster the child's cultural awareness. It's set in the Smithsonian, after all, so you see Degas and Calder and Jeff Koons sculptures come to life, and famous historical figures like Amelia Earhart and General Custer, Al Capone and the Tuskegee Airmen. Of course, then you have to be ready to explain all that stuff. Or you could just take them to see Star Trek.